College athletics calling
Several Western Slope athletes sign with various schools
National Signing Day for high school athletes is dominated by football signings, but plenty of other area seniors put pen to paper Wednesday for other college sports.
Five Fruita Monument seniors signed national letters of intent during an event at the school: Makenzi DeCrow will play softball at Otero Junior College; Joelle LeFevre will play volleyball for Colorado Christian University; Jordan Eatwell will play volleyball for Western State Colorado University; Jamie Madson will play soccer for Colorado Mesa University; and Cory Odom will play soccer for Belmont Abbey (N.C.) College.
At Grand Junction High School, Madison Marsh and Cassandra Grigware signed letters of intent to compete in track and field, Marsh at the University of Wyoming and Grigware at Western State Colorado. Grigware also plans to run cross-country for the Mountaineers.
Meanwhile, two of Hotchkiss High School’s top girls track and cross-country runners, Jennifer Celis and Natalie Anderson, signed with Oklahoma State and Western State Colorado, respectively.
The following is a quick look at each athlete:
The power-hitting third baseman cracked seven home runs and drove in 28 runs, both team-highs, for the Wildcats last fall, and Fruita coach Eddie Mort said she finished her career with 26 home runs.
DeCrow said she had offers from four-year universities, such as Colorado State and Ohio State, but she didn’t want her powerful bat residing on the bench for a year or two and chose to play junior college for the immediate experience. Then, she hopes Division I softball awaits.
“I wanted some playing time,” she said of her decision. “I want to make sure I’m steady before I jump into a big program.”
DeCrow said she’ll play third base or first base for Otero.
LeFevre’s play as a libero for the Wildcats earned her the player of the year honor in the Southwestern League last fall. That was quite an accomplishment on a senior-dominated Fruita volleyball team that earned a berth in the Class 5A state tournament.
She joins a Colorado Christian program that was part of the five-team logjam for third-place in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference last fall and advanced to the RMAC tournament semifinals.
LeFevre said she really liked the coach and the players she met during a visit to the Lakewood school, and the opportunity to play volleyball at the next level “means everything to me.”
She said she has a decent shot at seeing playing time as a freshman as a libero and defensive specialist.
Eatwell led a tall, powerful front line for the Wildcats, topping the team in kills, but she had defense to go with that offense, finishing second on the team in digs last fall. The 5-foot-11 outside hitter and middle blocker was selected first-team all-Southwestern League.
Eatwell said Western State’s plans for her could be as an outside hitter, “but if they put me anywhere else, I’m good with that, too, as long as I’m playing.”
Eatwell said basketball was her main sport for quite some time while growing up, but the summer leading into her freshman year forced a difficult decision between basketball and volleyball. She said she couldn’t play both, because the basketball season interfered with the club volleyball season. Volleyball, of course, won and became her focus the past four seasons.
Madson verbally committed to Colorado Mesa at the end of her sophomore season for Fruita Monument, and she signed Wednesday despite CMU remaining without a coach since the December departure of Erin Sharpe, who recruited Madson.
Madson, a center defender for the Wildcats, doesn’t expect the coaching change to affect her because “I’m a team player.”
Getting to play soccer in college is a dream come true, and getting to stay in the Grand Valley to do it is even better, as Madson said her family, particularly her grandparents, and friends will get to watch her play.
Madson started playing soccer at age 4, one year after she got into gymnastics. Eventually soccer became her sport as she stopped competing in gymnastics during the summer after her sophomore year.
Driving that decision, she added, was the question: “Which sport was going to get me to college?”
Odom has the Western Slope Showcase Camp, which debuted last summer, to thank for the interest he drew from Belmont Abbey, which is near Charlotte, N.C. That’s when he met Belmont Abbey coach John Keating, and Odom said he “made a really good first impression.”
The Crusaders were the first team to make Odom a scholarship offer, and he said other schools expressed interest after that, “but I never really acted on it.”
He said he’s thrilled to get to play college soccer, adding, “I knew that after high school I wasn’t ready to stop, so that was like the biggest motivation.”
Odom became Fruita Monument’s starting sweeper as a sophomore and remained entrenched in that spot thereafter. Wildcats coach Dan McKee said Belmont Abbey is getting an exceptional defender, one who is fast, smart, determined and will show his college coaches “he’s there to play.”
Marsh was looking for a sport when her mom suggested track and field. Marsh wasn’t thrilled with the idea at first, but now she’s parlayed her ability in the high jump into a Division I athletic scholarship with Wyoming.
“I never really knew what I wanted to do, and during my freshman year, my mom said ‘Madi, you need to run track,’ ” Marsh said. “I said ‘no’ at first, but then I ended up doing it anyway. And now I’m going to Wyoming and am going to be part of their track team.”
Marsh cleared 5 feet, 2 inches at the Class 5A state meet in May to place seventh as a junior.
She will be looking to improve on her results this spring. Marsh currently plays basketball for the Tigers and was a starting outfielder on the Tigers’ state-qualifying softball team in the fall.
Marsh said she’s excited about the next challenge.
“It gives me butterflies every time I go (to the Laramie campus). It’s exciting,” she said.
Grigware expressed excitement about running at Western State Colorado, a Division II power in cross-country and track.
“It’s such an awesome school. I love the community and got the opportunity to meet the team and the coach, and I feel a part of it already,” she said.
Now that her college plans are in place, Grigware can turn her focus to this spring’s track season, where she will run the 800 meters, 1,600 and be part of the 3,200 relay. She was the No. 2 runner on the Tigers’ girls cross-country team in the fall.
Grigware said she’s not sure what her events will be in college.
“It depends on how I do in this track season to see which (events) they want me to do,” said Grigware, who placed second in the 1,600 in the Southwestern League meet a year ago.
Celis and Anderson
Celis and Anderson powered Hotchkiss to the past two state team titles in Class 2A girls cross-country. Anderson placed second individually last fall and third as a junior, and Celis was fourth each year.
In between those seasons, they helped the Bulldogs finish third in the girls team standings at last spring’s 2A state track meet.
Celis won the 400 and 800 in 2A record times and ran a leg on the winning 800 relay.
Hotchkiss coach Kelly Cowan said Celis’ strength is middle-distance running, and Oklahoma State is outstanding at developing middle-distance runners.
On the track, Anderson won the 3,200 in Class 3A as a freshman, then finished among the top few runners as a sophomore and junior in the 1,600 and 3,200.
Cowan said Western State may be Division II, but when it comes to running, “Western State is one of the best places in the nation, no matter what.”
“They’re both going to great programs,” Cowan added. “They’re both really good runners now, but the competition (in college) will bring out more in them.”